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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 15, 2015 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> ifill: good evening. i'm gwen ifill. judy woodruff is on assignment. on the newshour tonight, los angeles shuts down the nation's second largest school district after an email threat targeting students. also ahead, baltimore is on high alert, as the jury is sent back after declaring a deadlock in the freddie gray case. plus, terrorism and safety concerns take center stage at tonight's republican presidential debate. and miles o'brien gets a reality check on solar and wind energy. >> the issue is that we don't have a battery technology that can meet the rigorous performance requirements of the grid; namely super low-cost and super long service lifetime. >> ifill: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
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>> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by bnsf railway. >> lincoln financial-- committed to helping you take charge of your life and become you're own chief life officer. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> ifill: the public schools across los angeles went dark today-- shuttered by the fear of a terror strike. it came in the form of an e-mail that warned of mass violence. the threat brought the los angeles unified school district-- covering 600 square miles-- to a halt. all 1,200 schools were shut down before classes started for the day. many of the 640,000 students were forced to turn around and head home. and superintendent ramon cortines hastily convened a news conference. >> i think it is important that i take the precaution based on what has happened recently and in the past. >> ifill: cortines was referring to the rampage two weeks ago in nearby san bernardino, where a married couple-- syed farook and tashfeen malik-- killed 14 people at a holiday party. as l.a. police fanned out and began checking schools today, officials said the e-mailed threat came from germany and mentioned everything from guns to bombs to nerve gas.
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for many parents, it was unnerving. >> well it's real, watching from what happened in san bernardino, that's pretty close to home. now this one here, even closer, it's pretty scary. >> confusion, chaos, nervousness. you're not really certain what's going on, what's entailed behind it. there are a lot of different emotions behind that. >> ifill: meanwhile, officials in new york city said they received a similar, if not the same, message. they discounted it as a hoax, possibly based on a tv show. >> we believe the email originated overseas. the language in the email would lead us to believe this is not a jihadist intiative, for example, that allah was not spelled with a capital a. that would be incredible to think that any jihadist would not spell allah with a capital a. i think the initiator, instigator of the threat, may be a homeland fan, basically watching homeland episodes, it
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mirrors a lot of recent episodes on homeland. >> ifill: moreover, mayor bill deblasio argued it's vital to keep schools open and not overreact. >> it's very important to realize there are people who want us to fundamentally change our lifestyle and our values and we will never give in to that. >> ifill: as the hours ticked by, los angeles mayor eric garcetti pushed back at criticism it was wrong to close l.a. schools. >> we will continue to hope that this is nothing, but as a parent and as a mayor, i am here to support this school district to look at this and make sure. >> ifill: the search-- and the investigation-- continued into the evening, assisted by the f.b.i. the white house said it would not second guess the decision in los angeles, but a leading democratic congressman from the area, adam schiff, said it now appears the threat was, indeed,
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a hoax. in the day's other news, the united nations' nuclear agency formally ended a decade-long probe into iran's nuclear program. inspectors found tehran had worked on a "range of activities" related to developing a nuclear weapon. but in vienna, the head of the international atomic energy agency said there's no sign the work has continued. >> the agency has no credible indications of activities in iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive devices after 2009. nor has the agency found any credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to iran's nuclear program. >> ifill: the end of the investigation clears the way for implementing a july deal that the u.s. and other powers reached with iran. it calls for curbing the nuclear program in exchange for relief
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from economic sanctions. human rights activists in nigeria are accusing the country's military of carrying out a "massacre" of hundreds of shi-ite muslims. they say it happened over the weekend in the city of zaria. the army says the shi-ites attacked a military convoy. protests over the incident broke out today in another city. a shi-ite spokesman says police fired on the crowd and killed at least three people. defense secretary ash carter called for the rest of the world today to ramp up military efforts against the islamic state group. carter spoke to u.s. and other troops stationed in southern turkey. they're taking part in the air campaign against isis targets in iraq and syria. >> we really are looking for the rest of the world to step up. america is stepping up, we need our allies and partners around the world to step up and do more, and that's true in europe, it's true in the gulf, it's
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true-- by europe, i mean all of nato, including turkey. >> ifill: carter also called for turkey to seal off the rest of its border against isis smuggling. and, turkey today joined a new, 34-nation "islamic military alliance" battling terrorism. it's led by saudi arabia, but does not include iran, iraq or syria. in yemen, a week-long cease-fire took effect today between shi-ite rebels and government forces backed by the saudis and other arab states. even so, security officials said shelling and ground clashes continued in places. the truce was timed to coincide with u.n.-brokered peace talks in geneva. a special u.n. envoy urged both sides to end the war. >> ( translated ): today, you are the decision makers and before you lies a historic responsibility. are you going to abandon yemen and its people and lead the country into further violence and slaughter? or are you going to put yemen first, awaken your humanitarian
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and patriotic consciences, and ensure the people of yemen can live the dignified life they deserve? you are writing the history of modern yemen and you alone have the power to overturn the situation. >> ifill: the world health organization says the warring factions have promised to allow "unconditional movement" of supplies and medical teams during the cease-fire. secretary of state john kerry reports progress on plans for syrian peace talks this week. kerry met with russian president vladimir putin in moscow today and said they found "common ground" on which syrian opposition groups to include in the talks. russia backs the syrian government, while the u.s. supports moderate rebels. back in this country, congressional negotiators worked to finish sweeping tax and spending bills to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. if they agree, the trillion- dollar package would also lift a 40-year-old ban on u.s. oil exports, as republicans want. and, it would renew tax credits for producers of renewable energy, something democrats have asked for. the republican governor of texas has ordered national guard troops to remain at the state's border with mexico.
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their mission was supposed to end this month, but governor greg abbott says more than 10,000 children crossed into the u.s. in october and november-- without parents. that's double the number from a year ago. and wall street gained ground for a second day. the dow jones industrial average was up 156 points to close near 17,525. the nasdaq rose 43 points, and the s&p 500 added 21. still to come on the newshour, a new focus on terrorism as the g.o.p. debates; baltimore's freddie gray case in the hands of the jury; a congressional crackdown on financial advisors, and much more. >> ifill: tonight marks the fifth time republican candidates will face off on the debate stage, but it will be the first time they've met since the attacks in paris and san
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bernardino. political director lisa desjardins reports. >> reporter: national security. it's now the dominant theme for 2016. in speech after speech... >> ...we don't feel safe anymore. >> reporter: ...from one news conference to the next... >> ...we are, today, in a time of war. >> reporter: ...and again and again in tv appearances. >> they're afraid of what they're reading in the press. >> reporter: the attacks on paris and san bernardino have fueled the new urgency. a new "nbc news" / "wall street journal" poll lists national security as the clear number-one priority of all voters-- 40% chose it. but the number was even greater for republican voters-- 58% said terror is their top priority. the candidates have been quick to react, and a campaign that was focused on outsiders is now highlighting the experience of some establishment candidates, and putting those with less foreign policy background on their heels. former frontrunner ben carson
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starting losing support after one of his advisers told "the new york times" the neurosurgeon has a weak grasp on foreign policy. then today: carson-- trying to regain momentum-- released a "plan to protect america." but look at point number seven: a call to investigate the "council on american-islamic relations"-- known as cair-- as a "supporter of terrorism." the group, a leading advocate for american muslims, fired back in a statement, calling carson's remarks "islamophobia". with carson struggling, senators ted cruz and marco rubio, more steeped in security policy, are gaining with conservatives. one sits on the senate's judiciary and armed services committees, the other on the foreign relations and intelligence panels. now, the two are turning their fire on each other. cruz, who's surging in the polls, has tried to cast rubio as authoritarian. >> i think, when it comes to foreign policy, he wants as much power in washington as possible. and he has agreed with john mccain, and lindsey graham, and
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for that matter, with hillary clinton and barack obama, that we should keep sticking our nose in foreign entanglements where the results of their policies has made america less safe. >> reporter: rubio, in turn, has cast cruz as bad for the military. >> given the choice between neo-isolationism or the defense of our country, he's chosen neo-isolationism. whether it's weakening our intelligence-gathering capabilities, or voting against the defense bills, or voting against a budget that substantially reduces our defense spending-- these are facts. >> reporter: while they duke it out, new jersey governor chris christie is also on the rise, stressing his time as a federal prosecutor. >> and i was, you know, in charge of having to make many of those decisions in my office in my seven years as u.s. attorney. >> reporter: the new security focus, of course, also sparked donald trump's call to block muslims from entering the country, and that prompted new criticism from some of his opponents, like ohio governor john kasich. >> look. people don't buy this. >> reporter: ...and former florida governor jeb bush...
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>> there's no evidence he's serious about any policy proposal he's laid out. >> reporter: so far, though, the national security debate has seemed to boost, not bruise the republican frontrunner. >> we have to get smart. we have to get tough. we have to be vigilant. we have to be vigilant. we have no choice. >> reporter: meantime, democrats are trying not to let republicans take ownership of the issue. in minneapolis today, hillary clinton outlined her plan for fighting terrorism in the u.s. >> the threat we face is daunting, but america has overcome big challenges many times before. throughout our h history, we've stared into the face of evil and refused to blink. >> reporter: and tellingly, all of the candidates running for president now stress that they're running to be commander-in-chief as well. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins.
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>> ifill: baltimore residents and officials are anxiously awaiting a verdict in the first trial in the death of freddie gray. it has exposed deep cracks in the city's criminal justice system, race relations and economic divide. the case has its roots in the april arrest of 25-year-old freddie gray, and his death a week later. after police detained him on a north baltimore street, gray was handcuffed and loaded into a police van. either then, or during the subsequent, multiple stop, 45-minute ride, he suffered what would become a fatal spinal injury. >> everyday we will fight for freddie gray. >> ifill: gray's death galvanized large protests and neighborhood unrest, despite appeals for calm by his mother and community leaders. >> i want you all to get justice for my son, but don't do it like this here.
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don't tear up the whole city, man. just for him? it's wrong. >> ifill: eventually, thousands of national guard troops were called in to stabilize the city and enforce a week-long curfew. state's attorney marilyn mosby charged six police officers in may, accusing them of failing to do anything to prevent gray's death. >> at no point was he secured by the seatbelt while the wagon contrary to a b.d.p. general order. despite mr. gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for mr. gray at that time by any officer. >> ifill: officer william porter, the first of the six to go to court, stands accused of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct. during his two-week trial, prosecutors blamed him for failing to buckle gray into a seat belt, and for not calling for an ambulance. they told the jury of seven women and five men, that porter's inaction effectively
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turned the police van into a "casket on wheels." in his own defense, porter said when he checked, gray did not seem injured, and his lawyers argued the vehicle's driver-- not porter-- was supposed to ensure gray was belted in. now, police are braced for potential trouble after a verdict, and the head of the city's public schools has issued a letter to the community warning students that: this morning, the defense asked for a mistrial, citing those warnings. the jury has gone home now after a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. juliet linderman covers baltimore for the asspcoated press. she has been at the trial, and she joins me now. of course, we have to talk first about this deadlock. what do we know about it,
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juliet? >> so the jury went home for the day around 5:30, and they had been deliberating for two days, this was the second day. they had been deliberating for about nine hours when they sent the judge a note saying they were deadlocked. it's unclear on what charges they deadlocked or how many jurors are disagreeing, but the judge did send them back into the jury room and said they should continue deliberations. so they will continue to fore-- tomorrow morning. >> ifill: has the jury sent out any other queries about what it is they're curious about, that they could reach a deadlock quickly after only two days of deliberation. >> sure. well, they did request transcripts of william porter's testimony that he gave to investigators. they also wanted the police transmission tapes. the judge denied request for transcripts but the jurors will be able to view those tapes. the jurors have also asked for
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clarification on certain terms, particularly in regards to the misconduct in office charge. they wanted clarification on, you know, what an evil motive might mean, so there's a chance that they are mulling over that charge, but beyond that, would be speculative. we really don't know what they're doing so far. >> ifill: what does an evil motive mean in this legal case? >> there are four charges william porter faces -- reckless endangerment, which is basically a wanton disregard for human life, that william porter's inaction caused risk of injury or death. so the manslaughter charge stems from freddie gray's death and the assault charge stems from his injuries. misconduct in office is a little more complicated because jurors will have to determine whether william porter acted in a corrupt manner and whether he, you know, failed in his duty as an officer, knowingly failed in
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that duty. so it's a bit more complicated and jurors are probably really considering that charge very carefully,. >> ifill: i gather there has been no lack of drama in the courtroom including putting down of a set belt on the table to demonstrate to jurors. tell me about that. >> ifill: absolutely. the prosecutor did dangle the bloody set belt in front -- seat belt in front of jurors. they say william porter was criminally negligent when he failed to seat belt freddie gray in the back of the van, and they wanted to convey to jurors that that was an intentional decision that he made and that he ignored freddie gray when he was asking for medical attention. of course, william porter cold jurors he didn't think freddie gray was injured, that he was showing no signs of distress and he told his supervisor that he needed to go to the hospital. so that's basically how it's
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playing out now and jurors are going to have to decide what to believe. william porter did take the stand in his own defense for more than four hours and, during closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed william porter as perhaps not telling the truth, so jurors are going to have to decide whether they believe his testimony. >> ifill: whether he was credible or not. there were six people charged. what exactly role was william porter? he was not the driver of the van. >> he was not the driver of the van. william porter basically responded to a call for help. he was present at five or the six stops that the transport vehicle carrying freddie gray made on its almost 45-minute trip from the site of the arrest at the home in west baltimore to the police station where freddie gray arrived unresponsive. basically the stop at the center of this trial is the van's stop at druid hill and dolphin when william porter checked on gray
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and he picked gray up from the floor of the transport van where he was lying on his stomach with his legs shackled and his wrists restrained in flexy cuffs and put him upright on to a bench and, in porter's words, he told the van driver, caesar goodson, whose trial is coming up early next year, that mr. gray needed to go to a hospital. but prosecutors say porter should have called for a medic immediately after gray indicated he was in any sort of distress. >> ifill: so, okay, let's talk about what effect this has had on the city of baltimore. we know what the immediate impact was just before and right after the charges were brought. where is the city tonight, i guess? >> sure. the city is absolutely bracing for a verdict. there is a police presence in baltimore. there was a presence in baltimore today. police officers from baltimore
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and surrounding jurisdictions were seen staging around the city. there is a crowd of protesters that had gathered outside to have the courthouse this evening. there are demonstrations planned for whenever the verdict does come down and also for following day. so i think the city can absolutely expect demonstrations, and the police department is preparing for any sort of civil unrest that we might see in the coming days. >> ifill: how many other people who are organizing these protests are counseling peaceful over violent protests? >> absolutely. as we've discuss before, the public school c.e.o. sent a letter to all public school families basically saying civil disobedience won't be tolerated and there will be consequences, and that included student walkouts. there have been peaceful protest thes and students have played a
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large role in those protests in. october students staged a sit-in in city hall that went late into the night. several students were arrested, but it was a peaceful demonstration. so the students are urging for that kind of peaceful civil disobedience, i think, in the coming days, and the mayor has also been outspoken, urging residents to remain peaceful as we come into the verdict whenever it comes down. >> ifill: okay, i know you will be in the courtroom watching for that. juliet linderman of the associated press, thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: stay with us. coming up on the newshour, how the media covers racial issues; a reality check of renewable energy; and actor bill murray's love of poetry. but first, a battle is brewing over proposed rules about the advice-- and fees-- that
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financial advisers can use with their customers. the fight is one of several big dividing lines this week on capitol hill, and it's spilled into the spending standoff as well. the deadline to pass a new spending bill is tomorrow. william brangham has been speaking with several of the key players as we get closer to the deadline and he joins me now. so this is finally perk lated its way to congress, but what is at the root of this dispute, william? >> brangham: the root of this dispute is the department of labor wants to change the rules governing retirement advisors, the people you go to if you need help with your 401k or rolling over your i.r.a. and things like that and the department of labor wants to change it so all these advisors have to have the best interests of their client at heart. many of us might think, well, doesn't my advisor already have my best interest at heart? and most of them do, but not all of them, and not all of them are legally required to do so. so that could sometime mean you might get sold a plan that has a lot of higher fees that is maybe not the best plan for your
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retirement future. so the department of labor wants to say, okay, put your clients' interests ahead of your own across the board. yesterday, i talked to the labor secretary thomas perez and here's what he had to say about this. >> this is not a case of people with malice in their heart who are trying to screw people. this is a case about a system that's structurally flawed. the incentives are misaligned. under the current standard, which is a so-called suitability standard, i can have four or five different products that are so-called suitable for you, and what happens in well, the product that generates the most commission for the salesperson is the product that invariably gets sold. so the consumer loses and the salesperson wins. >> ifill: so the consumer loses and the salesperson wins as secretary perez says. how much money are we talk agent
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here? >> the white house estimates $17 billion is lost every year by advisors who are giving this convicted advice where you're sold something with fees higher than what they should or it's not the optimal plan for you. there is a dizzying array of retirement options and it's difficult for people to know where to turn so naturally they seek advice. when you're driving down the road in your car and you hear a big bang coming out of your engine, you take it to one mechanic and he says it's $1,500 because you have to replace your transmission. the other mechanic, $1.99 plus a spark plug. unless you're an auto mechanic, you don't know who's right, who's wrong. it was put this way. >> so it's perfectly reasonable to get advice for complex matters. the problem is it's not transparent. the person doesn't know whether the 20 or 30 different types of products available, what are the
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fees? how do they perform over time is this and am i getting a high-cost product that's going to perform poorly or a low-cost product that will perform better? and you will never know because you never see the alternative. >> the industry is not taking this lying down. they will continue to fight this and they're spending a lot of money on it. >> the industry has spent already millions of dollars trying to torpedo these rules. they put a rider in the current spending bill to try eliminate the ability to have the department of labor to introduce this, and they are arguing the rules are unnecessary, that it will overly burden the industry, people will not get the advice they need and this is an unnecessary set of rules yowncht talked to kevin may o national association of insurance advisors and spokesmen. >> financial advisors who are successful are constantly acting in the best interests of their clients because tha they weren't they wouldn't be in business. there is already ample opportunity to discipline bad
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actors. and the cost of the compliant with federal regulations 1,000 pages in length makes it prohibitive for their companies to put advicers on the streets to help clients and advise the clients to give hem an array of options from which to choose. >> ifill: how burdensome are they saying the regulations will be? >> they say very. they say this is 1,000 pages of regulations and maybe big firms can handle the compliance costs but smaller firms can't and advisors might say i'm getting out of the business. >> ifill: what if you're depending on your financial advicer to handle your nest egg, what can you do? >> you can ask. it's awkward, but you can say do you have the legal obligation to look out for my best interests? if they say, i don't have the legal obligation, it doesn't mean they'll try swindle you. if they say they do, chances are you can be more comfortable.
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if you already have a plan, you can take it to a certified financial planner or a registered financial advisorrics people who do have the legal obligation and say, tell me if this is a good plan for me or not. >> ifill: william brangham, thank you very much. >> brangham: thank you. >> ifill: newsrooms across the country have long been accused of failing to represent the communities they cover, and as racial concerns continue to rise to the surface across the country, who is telling those stories? that's the question being raised by one group of journalists, and the topic of the latest installment of special correspondent charlayne hunter- gault's solutions-based series: "race matters." race nowadays is all over the news media, not at least the coverage of protests in places
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like ferguson, baltimore and new york. but the media are taking hits from critics especially those complaining from a lack of fairness or consistency, again, when it comes to issues involving race. richard prince is a journalist focusing on race and diversity in his thrice weekly online column journalism that runs on the web site of the maynard institute, the sponsoring organization started in the wake of the mid-'60s riots and aimed at trying to correct the lack of stories relating to race and diversity. we met prince at the museum, a washington, d.c.-based institution that's home to example of media committed to fairness and balance in their coverage of race and diversity. richard prince, thank you for joining us. >> so glad to be here. >> reporter: your column carries a lot of articles about journalist who themselves are complaining about fairness in media. what's your take on the
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criticisms of media and their issues? >> i don't think there is any more criticism in the media than there is ever been. it's just that we get to hear it now and see it instantaneously. >> you're a little younger than i am, but i remember the presidential commission that reported in the mid '60s on the riots and it blamed the media for not having mus enoughr any people at all in the neighborhoods where people were simmering over lack of jobs, poor education, no opportunities, and it said you've got to get more african-americans or people from those neighborhoods in the media. what happened? >> since that time, there was a great push, as you say, the current commission report of 1968, author of '70s, diversity was a buzz word, then the '80s you saw it getting a backlash through affirmative action and that kind of thing. then you had the recession which
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meant newsrooms had to not hire as many people, lay people off and the revenue which was worse because it took away the revenue base of newspaper particularly, so diversity sort of went off the table. so now we've been in a stag nat situation where the ethic of newspapers, for example, and online outlets, we have 13% of the news rooms now, people of color, whereas the population a third people of color. so there's a big gap. >> reporter: so there continues to be this black-white divide in racial discourse. how much of that is the fault of the media? >> well, of course, one of the purposes of the news media and particularly of newspapers and local television stations is to have different parts to have the community talking with each other. i think there are a lot of news organizations that take that role very seriously, less so with others. it also depends on the staff you have at how aggressive they are in demanding of their editors
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that certain things be covered. logically, the more people you have of color there or good-thinking people who are not of color, the better the coverage will be. >> reporter: but are we losing people of color as you have the consolidation of media? >> yes. >> reporter: and what's going to be the result of that? >> well, because of the layoffs and buyouts, african-american journalists, particularly, have been harder hit than others. but, you know, covering people of color and communities of color is not just the responsibility of journalists of color on the staff. it's everyone's responsibility. so if you have people, white people, white journalists who care about this issue, then it will get done. so a good example of that and when a crisis happens such as the charleston, south carolina, with the church shooting, with that newspaper there had actually decreased in diversity
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but they still did a good job according to most estimates because they cared and put their nose to the grindstone. >> reporter: do you think there should be a specific race beat and who should have it. >> you could but you could also make it everyone's responsibility. at another conference, the head of the awngs american journalist association -- asian-american journalist association, he recommended to make the race projects integrated so the white journalists learn a lot about what's going on in the communities of color and they can learn also from their colleagues of color. >> reporter: so when you look at the landscape of media today, how hopeful are you that the media are going to live up to your hopes and the hopes of those journalists of color and others who are writing to you and complaining that the media are not doing their job? >> right. well, i think that there is just
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too much indifference to the whole idea of diversity. yes, we'll do it if we get to it. i mean, the number of news rooms in this country that have no people of color at all in them is appalling and the fact it's allowed to remain i think, you know, is scandalous. but we're fighting apathy and difference and competing interests, and people are saying, look, i have to worry about the bottom line and they don't realize that the bottom line is tied to the changing country that's becoming browner and browner and that's where your potential customers are and, so, you better learn how to relate to them if you want to stay in business. >> reporter: but after the current commission report, the newspapers and then only three networks invested in educating african-americans to look at what the commission said, you need more people from there.
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is anybody doing that today? >> there are internship programs in a lot of networks. even fox news has an ap apprenticeship program for people of color, something that might surprise folks. and fox news has a separate web site, fox news latino to reach english-speaking hi hispas and that was praised and got an award from the national association of hispanic journalists. when people see that, that's when you get action. >> reporter: you're not as pessimistic as some of the people you report on, but still you say there are things that need to be done. so what are the solutions? >> there are a lot of answers. the american federation of news editors has a program where they go out into the community and interact with the folks and give them a chance to talk to the
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media. there is a lot of exchanging of ideas there. the university of missouri said they were going to have the the diversity initiative required for all students, faculty and staff members, and creates a climate so that when people actually enter the wor workforc, they will be more aware for the need for inclusiveness and what needs to be covered. there are a lot of solutions that people are trying and, as people say, if one thing doesn't work, you try something else. >> reporter: thank you. thank you. >> ifill: the historic climate change accord in paris is expected to give a further boost to wind, solar and other forms of energy that are less dependent on fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gases.
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some observers think it will change the business model for energy in the decades to come. but when it comes to renewable energy sources, there's a crucial technological gap that is no small hurdle. science correspondent miles o'brien has our report. >> reporter: 100 miles north of los angeles, in tehachapi, california, the wind can be a bountiful resource, but unfortunately, not at the right time. it blows hardest at night, spooling up these wind turbines to their peak output, when the demand for electricity is at it lowest. >> so, matching the output of wind to when customers really need it, that's certainly one of the things that we're looking at with this system that you see here, because you can store energy. >> reporter: doug kim is the director of advanced technology for southern california edison. the utility built this eight megawatt lithium-ion battery facility, designed to store electricity generated by the turbines. >> we can certainly use this for
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an example, when the wind blows during the nighttime, capture that energy during the nighttime and then use it during the daytime when the demand is high. >> reporter: the batteries stacked in racks here are equivalent to about 2000 electric cars. it is the start of edison's effort to meet a state-mandated requirement to add 580 megawatts of energy storage into the grid by 2020. it's part of a big push to invent ways to practically store huge amounts of electricity, so that renewables so can become a more than fringe players on the grid. >> if we don't treat the intermittency of renewables, they're not really a solution. >> reporter: electrochemist donald sadoway is a professor at m.i.t. he says lithium ion batteries are not the answer; they pose a serious fire risk, and as any laptop and cell phone user knows, their performance
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degrades, fast as a speeding tesla. in short, they are way too expensive and impractical for widespread usage on the grid. but what are the alternatives? >> the issue is that, we don't have a battery technology that can meet the rigorous performance requirements of the grid; namely super low-cost and super long service lifetime. >> reporter: dr. sadoway has spent 30 years working in electrometallurgy. so, no surprise that is where he found his inspiration. specifically, in the aluminum smelting process. >> so an aluminum smelter makes metal from dirt for less than 50 cents a pound and consumes huge quantities of electricity, and i looked at that and thought, "man if i could take that thing and teach it not to consume electricity but to store electricity and then to give it
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back on demand, i know at the end of the day it's going to be cheap." >> reporter: that was 10 years ago. today dr. sadoway is on the cusp of bringing a novel liquid battery to market through a startup he founded called ambri. >> so let's draw the battery. >> reporter: dr. sadoway gave me a chalk talk on how his battery works. it is layered like are parfait, with a low density liquid metal at the top, a high density liquid metal at the bottom, and molten salt in between. >> the way the battery works is the metal on the top wants to form a solution with the metal on the bottom-- we call it alloy. >> reporter: that interaction creates a flow of ions-- electrical current. as it discharges, the top layer gets thinner and thinner. but when the sun is shining on solar photovoltaic panels- or the wind is spinning turbines-- the process is reversed. >> it reconstitutes itself every
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time that it recharges. unlike other batteries which will reduce their runtime with use, our battery just keeps on running. show me another battery that can do that. >> reporter: actually, it might be just few miles down massachusetts avenue, in a lab at harvard. >> we took one of these and we charged and discharged it 700 times. if you think about doing that once a day, that's two years without any real sign of degradation of the molecules. >> reporter: engineering professor michael aziz is developing a so called flow battery. flow batteries consist of two separate tanks filled with chemicals-- one negative, one positive. the chemicals are pumped past each other into the battery. when wind turbines or solar panels are generating power, they charge the battery-- pulling electrons from the positive, and pushing them into the negative.
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when the battery is turned on the flow of electrons reverses generating electricity. >> the advantage of a flow battery is, if you want more energy, you just have bigger tanks of chemicals. and that's possibly a much cheaper way of getting the high amounts of energy than stacking up banks and banks of batteries. >> reporter: flow batteries powered by a rare, expensive metal called vanadium have been around for a while. but aziz is building his battery with benign chemicals that are cheap and plentiful. >> they're organic molecules. they're made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, earth-abundant elements like that, and they're really very inexpensive. >> rhubarb. >> so, we noted in our publication that the molecule we're using is very, very, very close to one that's in rhubarb. >> reporter: so what on earth could be cheaper than a rhubarb battery? maybe one that runs on air.
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>> this is version one. the technology we're calling it, regenerative air energy storage. >> reporter: danielle fong was all of 20 when she is co-founded a berkeley, california startup called lightsail. eight years, and $70 million later, the company has developed a half megawatt prototype system that pumps air into a tank when an intermittent power source is in operation. >> by the time it gets to the end, it's at 200 atmospheres. so that's in units of pressure 3,000 pounds per square inch. it's really a lot. when you want to get the energy back, you have a valve open as the piston is drawing back, the valve closes and then the air expands and it drives the piston which drives the crankshaft which drives generator which produces ac power. >> reporter: lightsail is developing lighter, cheaper tanks made of composites to hold the highly compressed air. up until now, the stumbling
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block for this idea has been managing the heat. air at high pressure gets extremely hot. lightsail's breakthrough idea: inject water droplets at the perfect size into the compression cylinder to cool the air. lightsail says it's possible to store all the power required to run an average american home for a day- 30 kilowatt hours- in a tank of compressed air the size of a refrigerator. >> there's more than enough wind and more than enough solar to handle everything that we need. that's for sure. but the important question is how do we, in parallel, build wind and solar resources along with energy storage so that there is the right amount at every time? right now, i would argue there is sort of like too much wind and solar and not enough storage. >> reporter: not even close. and the task is large. bill gates estimates all the batteries that currently exist in the world could power global electrical consumption for ten minutes.
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people know that the battery is the missing piece. without a battery, renewables are incomplete. but rising global demand for electricity, along with rising concern about climate change may soon lead researchers to the missing puzzle piece, giving electricity some shelf life. i'm miles o'brien for the pbs newshour, tehachipi, california. >> ifill: actor bill murray is enjoying a rennaisance. he has a new netflix comedy special, and the "new york times" recently declared him a pop culture icon. it turns out, murray is also a poet, and as special correspondent francesca maxime reports, he's found a home at new york city's poet's house.
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>> reporter: this is the bill murray we know: the actor, the comedian, the one who makes us laugh. >> he slimed me. >> reporter: but there's also the bill murray we aren't as familiar with. one who trades comedic lines, for lines of poetry at a yearly benefit, for poet's house. >> "what the mirror said" by lucille clifton. listen, you a wonder. you a city of a woman. you got a geography of your own. listen, somebody need a map to understand you. somebody need directions to move around you. i used to be able to look in the mirror and see who's there. sometimes it's a reminder that there's no one there, at all; there's not very much there.
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and sometimes there's someone that gives me confidence and i feel that that poem is about someone who has an inner, you know, a self-confidence that's bigger than, can't be contained in the frame of a mirror. >> reporter: murray loves poetry so much, he's wants to share some of that confidence with poets, writers, and readers. his support of poets house, a nonprofit library and cultural center in new york city, has helped make classes and writing workshops like this one possible. >> what we should be doing in the poem is thinking about the way information is released, and every step of the way throughout the poem. now how do we do that? >> reporter: one way to to do that, according to poet's house executive director lee briccetti, is having all kinds of poetry available to read, for free, under one roof. >> it is really the national poetry collection. we have collected, over the last 25 years, absolutely comprehensively. so, you can walk in and have an
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experience that almost doesn't exist anymore, especially it doesn't exists for poetry. >> reporter: poet's house sits along the waterfront in lower manhattan, boasting a 60,000 volume public library, exhibition space, reading room, and children's room. every year, it collects and displays hundreds of books from publishers in its annual showcase, which assembles all american poetry published in one year, in one place. still, some critics argue that the location isn't gritty enough. >> i have to say, we were worried ourselves and it's more diverse, our audiences have tripled. this is an affluent community and so we really worked hard at making sure that our doors are open to everyone, we really make sure there are free class trips, and that we program in an incredibly diverse way that invites everyone in. >> reporter: while poet's house offers many in-house programs, others take place out in the community.
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we went to their poetry walk across brooklyn bridge this summer, which is how bill murray first encountered poets house, years ago. while the poetry walk has been going on for 20 years, it keeps getting bigger and bigger every single year. this year, hundreds of people came out in order to hear richard blanco recite walt whitman's "crossing brooklyn ferry." >> we love you. there is perfection in you also, you furnish your parts toward eternity, great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul. >> reporter: at poet's house, oscar-nominated and pulitzer- prize-winning screenwriters and poets rub elbows with everyday visitors and fresh, creative writers like aziza barnes, who learned about poet's house, from a friend. >> i would start coming here and i would always run into somebody i loved here. no matter what. i was like "okay. i think this is a rich place." >> reporter: barnes became a poet's house emerging fellow in 2015. the fellowship included a stipend and writing workshops with some of the country's leading poets serving as
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mentors. there, she wrote the poem entitled "self-portrait:" >> only the turn of cement can arc black, i am blue damaged, mother gut and tower. truth. we are all for rent. red lined systems. the door out is green and full. >> reporter: what was it like being an emerging fellow with a bunch of other young poets here at poets house? >> i think, especially in the class i was in, there's not really that much of an interest in ego; in like "i'm a good poet because i wrote the thing that was published in the thing." it was more like "i'm here to be a student of this for the rest of my life." >> reporter: cultivating that lifelong learning, is just what the poet's house co-founders sought. stanley kunitz, who was twice poet laureate of the united states, and arts administrator elizabeth kray, had a vision. >> they felt that poets were lonely in this culture and needed a place to gather to meet to be nurtured.
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>> reporter: like other nonprofits, poets house requires public and private financial support to keep its doors open. >> i think a lot of the world would like to make you believe that the work you're doing is not important, will not change anything; particularly the arts, but i think it's like the only thing that survives about culture for real. people do need it. >> reporter: including cornelius eady: a poet, professor, and co- founder of cave canem, a national organization for african american poets, which rented space from poets house years ago, to provide those writers with a safe place to create art and build community. >> validation is really one of things that's still incredibly important and that poets house continuously sends out into the world as a message. a great big yes. >> reporter: what is poetry to you, in a word? >> i think it just gives me an opportunity to, you know, hear some sort of voice of the soul.
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the soul of a poet is all of our soul. this one's by billy collins. it's called "the moon." and if you wanted to follow this example, tonight would be the night to carry some tiny creature outside and introduce him to the moon. >> reporter: in new york, i'm francesca maxime, for the pbs newshour. >> ifill: and updating our top story: the superintendent of schools in los angeles has announced that the city's 1,200 public schools will reopen tomorrow. they were closed today, keeping more than 640,000 students home, after officials reported an e-mail threat of a terror attack.
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that triggered a day long search of all buildings. new york city schools received the same threat, but dismissed it as a hoax. >> ifill: on the newshour online: imagine being surrounded on all sides by a forty-part chorus. that's the experience that canadian artist janet cardiff designed for an audio installation at the san francisco museum of modern art. you can hear the piece yourself on our home page, www.pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, all eyes are on janet yellen as the fed considers the first interest rate hike in nearly a decade. i'm gwen ifill. join us on-line, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> lincoln financial-- committed to helping you take charge of your life and become you're own chief life officer. >> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org.
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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♪ >> this is bbc "world news america." >> funding of this presentation is made possible by -- the freeman foundation, newman's own foundation -- giving all profits from newman's own to charity and pursuing the common good, kovler foundation -- pursuing solutions for america's neglected needs, metlife premier client group and , sony pictures classics -- now presenting "the lady in the van." if man in your drive? >> just until you short yourself out. >>

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